After the expected nominal victory by Mansor Othman of PKR there should be some room to ponder over the meanings of the victory especially to explore the potentials of what the victory may mean for assisting the democratisation of the country. The victory is said to be `nominal’ for the candidate because for all who can have a close enough look at Mansor’s candidature the candidate is so fully `packaged’ that his personality hardly shine through the campaign! His Yale Background did not even afford him to speak to a open/mixed crowd. His intellectual capacity from his career as a social science researcher did not merit him to argue his case in an open debate organsied by the civil society. His party minders have ensure that the voters only see him minimally by himself-he is always escourted and only appear on stage along other `big guns’ from the Pakatan Rakyat. So will he be a party man or his own person in the future?
May be one can have a look at what the party can offer. As a avowed reform party PKR has some how attracted a mixed crowd to its `stable’ of elected representatives. It cannot even know when a next rep were to commit some serious misdemeanor that may damage its image/cause. The Perak crisis is not one that it can conveniently blame entirely on the evil design of the opponent. With such a outlook the party need to struggle hard to keep up its reform mission, while the country do need such a reform after half a century of stifling authoritarian rule.
Looking closer: the party does have serious problems to discipline itself. The candidature of Mansor itself was born out of factional fights where none of the existing warlords in Penang were favoured by the party HQ/boss. With a system where the party HQ decide who to become candidate-mimicking the UMNO system, Mansor, who was sidelined earlier from his party state chief position, was made to lead the charge. He was touted as a more credible veteran leader, after some obvious bungles by the younger parachute candidates who were entrusted with top posts. There is therefore a conflict to settle within the party before a clearer direction on reform can be fashioned.
Now the candidate himself. With a high academic qualification and a academic career behind him he could have made a `dream’ candidate for the Pakatan. However candidates with similar backgrounds on the other side of the politics eg the numerous leaders with doctorate titles, had not shone in leading reforms. Similarly Mansor’s predecessor has a double master degrees. So there must also be some credentials in politics itself other than an academic background to make reform possible.
Other than his academic background his political background started from his UMNO days, working for the party’s defacto boss. Such backgrounds are seen with suspicions, within and without the party, as often the background become a negative baggage that weigh down on reforms. Can Mansor assert himself to push through any reforms he want to carry out?
Just on the surface it is quite questionable as the party is only a junior party in the state Pakatan government. With only a handful of the Assemblypersons under his party he has to work through his senior party partner to get anything done.
Secondly within his own party he is not commanding the kind of respect and support that he can count on to push for reform-assuming he has an appetite for it. In his term as PKR state chief he was heard more in silence than in his own voice. The image of `weak’ leadership is not entirely his opponent’s coinage. In anyway he didn’t survive the factional fight and lost his position.
There are even reports that some of his known rivals in the party and in the state government would rather see him lose in the by-election so he would not stand in their way of going up.
If the campaign were to give any indication Mansor need to work much harder to let his reform voice to be made audible. He has to reform his own image and assertiveness to see reform through. The fact that he said repeatedly that he would face a debate any time-but blame the party for not allowing him to, shows a conflict that will continue for some time.